As a practicing therapist who works with individuals and couples, one of the challenges I have always seen is how to get clients to let go of the past and focus on the present. Often times we get in the practice of saying thank you and maybe saying, “I will think of you” and all that good stuff. However, this does not help the client find new insights into how they feel and change their behavior. I believe gratitude journaling can help with this. It has been very helpful to me.
This method of gratitude journaling is a method which helps you keep a record of how you feel every day. It then helps you to look at that record objectively to see if there are any patterns of gratitude emerging. When you see patterns, that’s when you know you’re on your way to getting better. One of the keys to gratitude journaling is that it needs to be specific. So rather than saying, “I am grateful that I have a pet,” it would be more helpful to write down, “I am grateful that we got together and had our first child.”
This allows you to be more in touch with the feelings of gratitude and gives you something tangible to look at as you review those good things in your life. You want to be sure to be as detailed as possible so you can really see how it feels to be grateful for all those things. Also, if you don’t like writing, that’s okay. There are many ways to do it that don’t require words on paper.
You can start your gratitude journaling on your own. Each morning start by taking a few minutes and writing down a few things you are grateful for right then. Whether it’s while you are eating breakfast, relaxing with a cup of tea, or walking the dog, just write it down. What you say is truly valuable and important. Try not to let those feelings of gratitude slip away because they will run out of time before you finish. They won’t be a lasting feeling.
Next, record the events of the day. If there is an occasion or good deed done that day, write it down. Then move onto a short description of each item. This could also include a few lines about how you felt about the action or how grateful you were for the act of kindness. Remember, gratitude journaling should be a consistent habit and should be done throughout the day, not just on some particular days.
For example, if you were busy the last few days carrying boxes to and from your home and you finally manage to get home without any damage, write that down. You may want to add a couple of lines about how upset you were about not being able to do the things you did the last time and wish you could have gotten around to it then. Or you might even want to mention that you plan on doing those things again soon.
Then, as the day goes on, write about the good things that happen. You can also use the space to list all of the people who you have met during the day. Just be sure to keep things positive and write about the good times rather than dwelling on the bad. For instance, if you met someone you really connected with at work, you can write that down. That can then become a reminder to look forward to seeing her again. This way, you are applying gratitude to the specific person who brought you into contact with each other and that can help you feel more grateful in general.
Finally, when you are journaling, don’t forget to end your entries the same way. Use a special spiral notebook in your laptop or desktop computer so that you can close your eyes and focus on the words and the feelings that you are writing. This will help you to keep track of your gratitude journaling and to have something tangible to look back on in the days and months to come.
Lisa is a lifestyle article writer for a local newspaper. Aside from that, she is part-time English teacher on a high school. She also speaks at seminars and workshops. She is currently living with her husband and two kids.